After ten years of playing foggy, excessive garage punk with the Black Lips, Ian St. Pé has decided to move on to new musical territory. The fact his new band is called Saint Pé suggests he's more personally invested in this new music than he was in the Black Lips, and the debut album from Saint Pé, 2017's Fixed Focus, is certainly more mature and less reckless, both musically and thematically. But St. Pé is still a guy who likes rock & roll, and Fixed Focus shows that the older, wiser dude is still young enough to kick up some dust. There's a garage-centric side to Saint Pé's music, but there's also plenty of vintage R&B and first-generation rock in the picture. St. Pé's efforts to bring a soulful side to his rock & roll suggest he went through a thought process similar to what Greg Cartwright went through as the Oblivians evolved into Reigning Sound. Saint Pé doesn't sound as if they've been lifting moves from Cartwright, but with Fixed Focus, the titular bandleader has moved from a house show played in a basement to a sweaty roadhouse on Saturday night, with the addition of Paul Wierdak's keys and the group harmonies adding polish without making this sound slick. And the mood of Fixed Focus is grown up without feeling pretentious or dull; these songs speak of a well-lived life, but one that's taught St. Pé and his crew a few valuable lessons, and he sounds regular-guy smart while this band (St. Pé, Wierdak, Matt McCalvin and Ian McDonald taking turns on guitar and bass, John Restivo, Jr. on drums) lays out a strong, butt-shaking groove. Fixed Focus is an impressive debut from a band that already has important ground covered as it looks to the future.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming